Fashion Magazine

How to Understand the Elements of Prints

By Imogenl @ImogenLamport

Following on from my post on how to interpret prints and patterns I want to talk more about different elements of prints and how they also relate to other elements of ourselves.

Elements of Prints Elements of Prints by imogenl featuring a floral pencil skirt

You would be aware that not all florals are the same, just as not all animal prints, stripes or checks are the same, they have different elements and some will appeal more to you than others, and some will flatter you more than others.

So what are some of the basic elements of prints:

1. Scale – how large or small the print is.  The larger the scale the taller you need to be to wear it successfully, unless you have a very dramatic or bold personality, otherwise it will overwhelm you.  Petite people generally look better in smaller prints.  Medium height people in medium size prints.

2. Sparse or dense – if you can focus easily on individual elements of the print it’s more sparse.  If your eye roams and doesn’t focus on the print it’s more dense (there is less negative space in the print).  Dense prints are more slimming as they keep the eye moving, whilst sparse prints create focal points (which when placed judiciously can be used to your advantage).

3. Contrast – low to high.  The difference between the colours in the print.   What harmonises with you relates to your own personal contrast levels.  So if you have a low value contrast you’ll look better in a print that is has a low value, whilst if you have a high value then a high contrast print will not overwhelm you.   How many colours are in the print?  Are they really obvious or more subtle?  The more coloured you are (colour contrast) the more highly coloured prints will work for you, whilst the more monochromatic you are naturally, the more you’ll look better in prints that have fewer colours.

4. Ordered or Random.  Is the print in a geometric or ordered pattern or is it spread randomly across the garment?  Someone with a more classic personality style will suit a more ordered print, whilst someone who is more creative will prefer a more random print.

5. Intensity – soft and muted to bright and clear.  Your colouring will determine how bright or muted the colours in the pattern should be.  If you can wear bright colours then you’ll find patterns with bright colours suit.  Whilst if you find more subtle or soft smoky colours are best for you then the colours in the patterns need to be softer and smokier.

6. Stylised or Natural.  Again this is a preference that comes down to your personality.  Some people will prefer prints that are stylised (dramatic, creative personality types), whilst others will prefer a more natural look to their patterns (relaxed, feminine).

Personality of Stripes and checks
Personality of Stripes and checks by imogenl featuring a collared shirt

So when we look at Stripes and Checks which are more traditionally patterns associated with the Classic and Relaxed personality type – you can see from this picture that even they can be created in different ways which moves them into other personality styles.

  • Classic –  narrow, lower contrast, finer, even
  • Relaxed – slightly wider, not so controlled or even, variegated
  • Dramatic – big and bold, high contrast
  • Creative – lower contrast, uneven


So you can see that prints and patterns have many elements that need to be taken into consideration.  And what you choose will come down to:

  • Your personality
  • Your contrast levels
  • Your colouring
So now you know a little more about interpreting prints and patterns and the different elements of them, tell me, when you look in your wardrobe and look at the print or pattern garments you love the best – what are their elements?

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